Time Capsule Project


Opportunity/ Context

The coming decades, encompassing the centenary of the ISSMGE (2036), are predicted to bring unprecedented changes in all walks of life, through the underlying shift in world view and attitudes towards digital advances and sustainability considerations, accelerated by the necessary changes in practice and expectations that COVID 19 has brought.

Our opportunity is here and now to bring forward the creation of an entirely Virtual Time Capsule (VTC) that brings together and provides a common heritage to all geotechnical engineers. 

Vision/ Purpose

This is an exercise that keeps us (ISSMGE)

  1. in touch today and provides more continuity to the leadership of ISSMGE
  2. connecting ISSMGE with all of its base, in particular the 90% who are largely silent
  3. providing a vehicle for their rehearsing their voice and expressing their thoughts.

Approach & Organisation

Because of the past, we are here today. The past can be summarised by the following points,

  1. What did geotechnical engineering achieve then and what social conditions prompted it?
  2. What were the successful achievements of geotechnical engineering?
  3. What were the mistakes, and what could not be achieved?
  4. Evaluation of the past by future generations; future means the 2030’s.

We could consider the past via the following periods:

  • Pre-1930’s (before ISSMFE was formed) – this would include such historical figures as Coulomb, Rankine, Bell, Fellenius and others, plus Terzaghi’s rise to prominence
  • The decade of the 1930s
  • The decade of the 1940s
  • Each decade thereafter, up to the end of the 2010s

 Within each period, we could include the following items:

  1. The major advances in soil mechanics and the various facets of geotechnical engineering
  2. Identification of at least some of the seminal technical papers published within that decade
  3. The Presidential addresses, representing contemporary views

There are two further criteria for selection of VTC contents;

  1. good and poor aspects in development of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering, including the growth, distribution, and diversity of geotechnical engineers within ISSMGE and how it has changed/changing over the years (to the extent available).
  2. regional geotechnical activities, problems, and consequences including major projects, and serious incidents and lessons learnt

A further aspect can be the role that education played and continues to play in geotechnical engineering. Academia has had a hugely influential role, and this is not always understood.  

Implementation & Communication

In the context of the stated vision/ purpose (Item 2.0 above), implementation necessarily involves communication, and communication is part of implementation. We envisage the following targeted communication and implementation means are feasible and worthwhile for this presidential term.

  1. Technical Committees to be asked to succinctly document the development of their area, most conveniently by decades, focussing on major breakthroughs and why that came about, with collateral material (papers etc) that support their story
  2. Member societies to be asked to provide material that support and explain the development of geotechnical engineering in their countries, including major failures, as a well as major geotechnical triumphs/ achievements
  3. Corporate Associates of the ISSMGE, and all commercial organisations, be invited to outline what contributions they have made to geotechnical engineering, and projects, with supporting documents
  4. Academic institutions be invited to present their unique contributions to the advancement of geotechnical engineering, and in particular advances and innovations in geo education that they have championed
  5. Young Members of the ISSMGE be invited to guess which technical advances we believe should have been already been achieved by 2036? We invite here the most open thinking.

A key part of the implementation & Communication work would be to create an accessible site where geotechnical community at large can view the evolving VTC, and  respond to a very brief (short) survey to elicit their thoughts and concerns about the contents, and any new insight they have had as a result of viewing the contents of the VTC.


Time Capsule Launch Date and Venue, 1-6 May 2022, 20th ICSMGE, Sydney, Australia

Time Capsule Project blog posts https://www.issmge.org/news/tcp-blog-posts

https://www.issmge.org/news/we-dont-need-no-education (posted January 2021)

https://www.issmge.org/news/ethics-in-geotechnical-engineering (posted March 2021)

https://www.issmge.org/news/mind-the-gap-research-and-practice (posted April 2021)

https://www.issmge.org/news/are-we-witnessing-the-emergence-of-the-third-era-in-geotechnical-engineering-practice (posted May 2021)

https://www.issmge.org/news/know-of-directly-useful-geotechnical-research-speak-up (posted July 2021)

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